By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- The Zoom interview between Ventura County District Five Supervisor Candidate and Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez and Karen Sher, President of the Oxnard Union High School District Board of Trustees, continues with the Schools and Communities First ballot question, which Ramirez endorses.
Sher and Ramirez discussed reopening schools and the potential threat to the health and well-being of students and teachers, along with digital learning, adjusting to electronic platforms, and wishing for a return to normalcy.
Ramirez said society has its priorities wrong when it comes to funding schools, and higher education suffers because of that mistake.
Sher said there is a school to prison pipeline problem in the United States and California.
"What it costs to house one prisoner for one school year could earn them an Ivy League college education," she said. "Our priorities are in the wrong place. We need to find a pathway for everyone. That's one of the things that I've started and led my classes with, that's Equity and Access. Those are my guiding principles with my children. They remind me that this one got that. It's not providing the same thing. It's providing what the student needs."
Ramirez asked what kind of relationship the school district has with the Ventura County Community College District, and Sher said they have a dual enrollment.
"They can do community college classes and high school at the same time," Sher said. "Two years ago, we opened the Oxnard Middle College High School, located on the Oxnard College campus. It's a high school on a college campus. Students who graduate earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree at the same time."
The district has experienced success with that program, she said, and they are growing that opportunity.
"It has been a joy to watch that program develop," she said. "This year, we'll have juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. We don't have a senior class yet. I don't know how many students there are, but I want to say 50. We settled on 25 per class, so next year it will be a little bit bigger. Dr. Kim Stephenson is one of the teachers at that school, and she does amazing work with those kids. Our mission at the Oxnard High School District is to provide a powerful future for every child. That includes post-secondary opportunities for every child that wants them. Even if it's delayed."
The district aims to rise to the needs of every student; she called it a heavy lift.
"When we say rise to the needs of every child, we mean every child," she said. "I'm proud to serve on a board where that is our mission. It's all of us."
Ramirez asked Sher what the school district can do to reopen, assuming that the virus has calmed down. Ramirez noted that California and Oxnard are being hit hard with Covid-19, right now.
"In my opinion, we cannot reopen until we have a four-week period where there has not been a new virus documented," Sher said. "That's an important first step, but you are asking me, and that is my opinion."
Sher called a vaccine a big step, but it is also a tricky issue.
"Is it going to cost money," she asked. "Who is going to access it and how will they implement it? Are all communities served the same way? Historically, that has not been the case. Impoverished communities usually receive services last."
She's learned that children are often asymptomatic when they have Covid-19.
"They can be carriers and never display symptoms," she said. "When you talk about taking the temperature of every child, it doesn't mean anything. They're not displaying any symptoms, so they are not going to have a temperature. Who's going to take the temperature, me? I haven't been trained or would be willing to put into my contract. I'm a professional educator, and that's where I get frustrated."
Ramirez interjected that Sher is not a babysitter.
"If we were babysitters, we would be paid by the child, and we'd be making a lot more money," Sher said.